Gluten’s Link to Celiac Disease

Gluten sensitivity is a common digestive problem. Fortunately, awareness of the problem has increased in recent years. Gluten sensitivity can be painful and uncomfortable, but is it dangerous to your health?It depends, says Dr. Suresh Mahajan, a gastroenterologist on the Medical Staff of Southwest General.

Q. Is gluten sensitivity harmful to a person’s health?
A. Maybe. Gluten sensitivity is often associated with celiac disease, a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system reacts aggressively to gluten, creating inflammation in the small intestine. When this happens, it curtails the intestine's ability to absorb important vitamins and nutrients, leading to severe health problems. Some people, however, have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Those people experience the same uncomfortable symptoms as they would with celiac disease, but their intestines continue to work normally.

Q. How do you know if you have celiac disease?
A. Celiac disease is diagnosed with a blood test for the presence of specific gluten antibodies. If you don't have the antibodies, you don't have celiac disease.

Q. How can celiac disease be treated?
A. The only way to treat celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity is to eliminate gluten from your diet. If you have celiac disease it is more important to avoid gluten because of the health problems than can result. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity will simply want to avoid the painful or uncomfortable symptoms.

Q. What are the symptoms?
A. Gluten sensitivity can result in irritable bowel syndrome, excess gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea when gluten is consumed. In addition to those symptoms, people with celiac disease may also become anemic, lose weight and even have neurological, skin, and other disorders due to deficiencies in vitamins like B or D, or minerals like calcium. If you have these symptoms, I recommend that you see your doctor to determine whether you have celiac disease.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Mahajan by calling 440-816-2789. His office is located at Southwest General Health Center, 7255 Old Oak Blvd., Suite C101, in Middleburg Heights.